Photographer's Note

This is a close up view taken from a high vantage point just outside the town centre.

Kyrgyz form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China and the second largest ethnic minority along with the Tadjik who live in Taxkorgan Pamir for generations. There are over 300,000 ethnic Kyrgyz living in China's Xinjiang Province, the majority of whom reside in the Kyzylsu-Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture near the Chinese-Kyrgyzthan border.

This the collection of Kyrgyz yurts sit on a vast wet medow in the shadow of the towering Pamir Range at over 3200 metres, their summer tent is a fleeting footnote to human endurance among the massive contours of a timeless landscape. It is just one of many spartan tents that cling to the Karakoram Highway, the worlds highest paved international road, as it winds through this remote corner of western Chinas Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
Home for the Kyrgyz is a combination of yurts and primitive mud brick houses. A masterpiece of low-tech design, the yurt has been used by Kyrgyz nomads for over 1,000 years, and is so well matched for its purpose that it has evolved little since conception. The yurt is the pinnacle of Kyrgyz craftsmanship, and erecting one is a social affair that involves whole families and communities.

Kyrgyz nomads often refer to their yurts as bozuy, or grey houses. In times gone by ordinary families couldnt afford to use the best quality felt to cover their yurts, so they used felt scraps, which were generally grey. Wealthier, more powerful Kyrgyz would use white felt, and their more impressive homes were known as 'akorgo', or white yurts. Yurt are still used across Central Asia, but there are subtle variations in their design. Kyrgyz ones are taller than Kazakh ones. The roofs of Xinjiang Pamir yurts have to be steep to keep off the snow and rain, and despite the inhospitable climate, they can last for many years.

The yak is vital animal to many Kyrgyz of the Xinjiang Pamir, so its little wonder that a large part of Kyrgyzs life is dedicated to the happiness of this animal. Renowned for their hardiness, yaks can live up to 25 years anywhere from 3,000 meters to very high altitude, and provide everything from transport, meat and milk to hair for making ropes and rugs, dung for fuel, and wool and leather for yurts, clothing and various other household items. The importance of the yak to the Kyrgyz way of life is highlighted by some of their customs. They often greet each other with the expression: Are your cattle well? When two young people get married they hope "they will have many children in front of them and lots of yaks behind them"

Although some influence of modern society have penetrated the Xinjiang Pamir, Kyrgyz knows it is relationships with land and livestock rather than technology that sustain most of Kyrgyz people. The Kyrgyz here have always been chaban - cowboys, who will always depend on this animal, and always live off the land. The yak and horse are part of Kyrgyz culture, they always will be.

WS: Yaks grazing on the pastures in Taxkorgan valley

Photo Information
  • Copyright: abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 8267 W: 150 N: 18540] (82746)
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  • Date Taken: 2008-04-18
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  • : f/10.0, 1/250
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  • Date Submitted: 2011-07-13 5:51
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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 8267 W: 150 N: 18540] (82746)
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